Going back several years, mileage running as a “sport” made perfect sense — airfare was extremely low, airlines published promotion after promotion, and routing rules were extremely generous. Unfortunately that’s not the case anymore as the economy has recovered and consolidation has occurred in the industry. Nowadays routing rules are strict, airfare is so much higher than a few years back, and there aren’t all that many lucrative promotions in the airline industry.

So for the most part mileage running doesn’t make sense, especially factoring in the time it takes. My strategy nowadays is mostly to just take “mini-vacations” that are justifiable. For example, if there’s a $700 fare to China, that sounds like a fun way to spend a few nights in Beijing, fly in business class (using the systemwide upgrades I get for being an Executive Platinum member), and rack up almost 40,000 AAdvantage miles (thanks to the 100% elite mileage bonus).

However, I think I made the most justifiable mileage run of the year today. As it stands, I’m ending the year with 123,805 elite qualifying points with American.


As some of you may recall, American published some Elite Rewards for this year, and they’re awesome. For passing 125,000 elite qualifying miles or points you get the choice between the following:

  • 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles
  • Two systemwide upgrades
  • Gift AAdvantage Gold status to a friend
  • Admirals Club membership
  • 20% off aa.com discount


Of those options I value 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles the most. As it stands I’m 1,195 elite qualifying points short of the next rewards threshold. Today I had to fly from Miami to New York, a journey of 1,089 miles. If I had flown that direct in an eligible fare class that would have gotten me to 124,894 elite qualifying points. It would have pained me to be 106 elite qualifying points short of getting 30,000 bonus miles.

So instead I decided to route through Washington Reagan, which cost just $2.50 extra (the amount of the per segment 9/11 security tax). Factoring in the 500 mile minimum I’ll be ending the year with 125,224 elite qualifying points


I’d say spending an extra two hours to earn 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles is a pretty good return on time, assuming I don’t run into any major delays.

Anyone else doing some year end routing “padding” to reach an elite or bonus threshold?

  1. December 29th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Craig said,

    My “home” airport is CLT (Charlotte, NC) which has been heavily dominated by US Airways for the last 20 years. Something like 80%+ of the flights that arrive and depart the city are on that carrier. Now that US Airways and American are merging, I am thinking about getting into the points game since I assume that shortly (if it hasn’t already happened) I will then have access to the entire US Airways/AA network plus all of the codeshares with OneWorld. I won’t have time to do any “mileage runs” I will be accruing most of my mileage through our business credit card. I do like the idea of upgrading on long hauls, mainly because I am diabetic and sitting upright for more than 3 hours creates medical difficulties. We fly to Western Europe 3-4 times a year plus at least twice a year to Puerto Rico (direct) US Airways has usually offered reasonable last minute upgrades to Envoy. I have not flown American since 2007 and before that in 2001 so my experience with their product has been minimal.

  2. December 29th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Jorge said,

    If my company is footing the bill, achieving executive status makes a lot of sense.

    But if this is coming out of my own pocket, it makes no sense to me at all. Just not worth it.

  3. December 29th, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    WorldWingedExplorer said,

    how much did u pay for the fare being that it was at the end of the year?

  4. December 29th, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Vik said,

    I must say, I’m surprised you value 30k miles more than the 2 system wide upgrades. Would be interested in understanding your rationale

  5. December 29th, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    greatmoosy said,

    i’m about 700 miles shy of getting an extra 2 RPU on UA (standing at 124,387) but since I don’t do much domestic USA flying it didn’t seem worth it. Of course i say that now but…

  6. December 29th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Stephan said,

    Agree with @Vik – Why are the miles more valuable? Isn’t the point of status to get upgrades that you can parlay into long haul J/F upgrades?

  7. December 30th, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Kevin said,

    Debating the merits of actually doing a SIN turn tonight from HKG to hit the 125K EQM mark. Using the premier accelerator was just too much for the 1200 EQM.

  8. December 30th, 2013 at 5:28 am

    lucky said,

    @ WorldWingedExplorer — It was roughly $200, though it’s a flight I needed to book either way.

  9. December 30th, 2013 at 5:29 am

    lucky said,

    @ Vik @ Stephan — I already have eight systemwide upgrades for next year, and doubt I’ll even be able to use all of them. I value systemwide upgrades immensely, but don’t see myself needing more than the standard allotment.

  10. December 30th, 2013 at 7:37 am

    kelly henry said,

    i just barely made that AA threshold myself – got distracted focusing on making UA 1K. Like you, i flew DFW-ORD-CLE instead of just DFW-CLE on THursday. ALso, spent 30 min on hold w AA cust service to get the miles i lost due to ice storm cancellations and an annoying emergency landing which resulting in losing a segment. If you missed any segments or miles – even due to weather – CALL them!

    103,755 points(0 until Executive Platinum)
    100,000 points
    120,968 miles(0 until Executive Platinum)
    100,000 miles
    97 segments(3 until Executive Platinum)
    100 seg

  11. December 30th, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Despina said,

    My husband has been at 124,487 on UA since 12/20 but refuses to do the necessary travel to bump himself up to 125K and get 2 RPU’s, even though he could have gotten a same day turn SFO-LAX area for less than $200. FWIW, UA wanted over $1,000 to purchase 3,000 Elite Qualifying Miles through the award accelerator on his last two trips in December.

  12. December 30th, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Andrew B said,

    You were in my town for a hot minute! If I knew, I would’ve waved in your general direction!

  13. January 1st, 2014 at 5:14 am

    royalfirst said,

    Are you still a Premier 1K with UA for 2014?
    If you can choose to be top tier with either UA or AA which would you go for?


  14. January 1st, 2014 at 7:56 am

    lucky said,

    @ royalfirst — No, I credit exclusively to American and Alaska nowadays. As far as which program is better goes, it really depends on what you’re trying to get out of status and which airline’s route network better complements your travels. Generally speaking I’d say American’s program is more generous to top tier elites as of now, though that could change when they introduce the new post-merger program.

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